Friday, December 30, 2011

The Importance of Networking, Outsourcing, and the Creation of an Information Community

One of my pet peeves is receiving the notice of a news item and a stock picture is used, and as my focus is geology, I see this happening more and more where volcano eruptions occur. And today, I was asked what I would do in order to change this situation. My thoughts are that surely, a large network of reporters, such as AP, UPI, Reuters, and the BBC would be able to manage a shot of a new eruption. But no. My personal belief is that the philosophy current in such agencies is to provide a minimum of news coverage before competitors can post the same, while sacrificing a more complete, thorough report that would also include a visual demonstration of the event.

So what are we bloggers to do when we try to pass along news stories to an eager readership? We step up, form our own information community via the marvelous technology offered to us today. Question # 2: How do we manage to accomplish this feat? The answer will be the focus of this article, and which will, hopefully, inspire folks to reach out, to communicate with each other, and to form this body of valuable resources.

Years ago, when I was working on my Biology degree, I was fortunate enough to have as my professor/adviser, one of those types that thought outside the box. I had never met anyone like him; his genius lay not in what he knew personally, but in what information he could tap into and use to create a means of accomplishing the fullest education for his students. Dr. Jim Grove later became like family to me and to this day, I think of him more like a brother than a teacher. However, what he taught me, through demonstration, continues to benefit my life and the lives that I touch.

Jim showed me that the phrase, "no man is an island," is truer than it ever has been; there is simply so much information prevalent in our modern society that one person cannot contain it all. And as previously stated, the big news corporations live by a particular standard that is imposed upon their readers, leaving them less than fulfilled and satisfied. Therefore, it is up to the individual to form a web of resources in order to provide that information. Let's start with an example that occurred today.

Note this news blurb from Fox (Faux) News:

Alaska Volcano Sends Ash Plume Up to 15,000 Feet

Published December 29, 2011
| Associated Press
A volcano in Alaska's Aleutian Islands sent up an ash cloud on Thursday that prompted scientists to increase the alert level for commercial aircraft traffic.
The Alaska Volcano Observatory said satellite images at 4:02 a.m. Alaska time showed Cleveland Volcano had spewed ash 15,000 feet into the air in a cloud that moved east-southeast. U.S. Geological Survey scientist-in-charge John Power called it a small explosion.
"It's not expected to cause a disruption to big international air carriers," he said.
However, it was significant enough to raise the alert level from yellow, representing elevated unrest, to orange, representing an increased potential of eruption, or an eruption under way with minor ash emissions or no emissions.

Granted, the article is more detailed than many others I googled, but like 80% of those reports, there was no image accompanying it. 15% used a stock image. Good grief. How much energy would be used in finding a current picture of Cleveland volcano? Not much. Here's what I found:
1st image (source)

Second image (source)

How tough was that to accomplish? If it was any easier, I would be grasping images out of thin air. How did I know where to go to find these pictures? What are the steps or filters I use in order to gain my goal?

1. Of primary importance--check the volcano observatories for the most reliable/recent information/images. The 2nd image above was found at Alaska Volcano Observatory. The 1st was found via Google search, but NASA is responsible for this sat image. Remember that Google is your best friend; use the image search and you can easily tell which images are older and which are most recent. Also, use Google search within the parameters of the last day/week for information. Sometimes, being persistent and checking all you find brings results.

2. As everyone and his uncle has some sort of video recording device, YouTube is a great place to check for images. Use the same time frame as you used for Google and that should clear out the older posts. Also, look at Google Earth Blog's site; sometimes, within a very short time frame, a .kml file will be created and using Google Earth, one can get a better, larger view of the volcano.

3. Check local news/websites in the area surrounding the volcano; often the local newspaper is far more efficient and informative that the big guys in the industry. Again, Google is your friend; enter the search term, "newspapers for (name of city)." However, do look for evidence that the proper research has been done. For example, yesterday, one small news site erroneously stated that a certain volcano had erupted last year when in fact, it has been ten years (name, info, etc. withheld in order to avoid extreme embarrassment on non-stated party's part).

4. Watch the webcams. Although I am touching on the topic of technology and will go into details later, there are many places online where one can find a list of webcams. Erik Klemetti provides a list at his excellent Eruptions blog, and (I also suggest following him on Twitter) then, there are my own pages, where you can go to any place, anywhere in the world, any time of the day in order to see what's happening. Links are listed below. Once you know the "image location" of a cam (right clicking an image should give you that option), you can copy and paste it into a desktop client, like Yahoo's webcam widget that will allow you to add up to 200 locations per single cam. I duplicate and use 8 of them, as it's the easiest way for me not to miss an eruption. I simply program the cams to make copies of images every time the cams reload and save them to a folder so that I may look at them later. At the moment, I'm watching and snapping images of Tungurahua, Popocatepetl, and Galeras. These are the freshest images anyone can find on the net. Try it.

5. In real estate, the key to success may be "location, location, location," but in information outsourcing, it's people, people, people. Developing contacts is a must, and even though this may feel like a slower than snail mail process, hang with it; you'll make new friends, you'll learn a great deal, and you'll gain an information source that is priceless. But how, you ask? Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and even Flickr provide places for interaction to occur. I maintain 6 Twitter accounts, and all of them have to do with different interests, but without those accounts, my blog postings and my ability to learn would be severely hampered.

But the contacts I've made are priceless. Get to know photographers who shoot in the area of your interest (in this case, volcanoes), local volcano enthusiasts who you may have seen retweeted, regardless of country of origin (Google translator or Babelfish can make a huge difference in understanding, if you are not proficient in a foreign language), other bloggers who are like-minded, and Earth Science teachers. I especially like the latter, as I am a former teacher and still highly regard the profession.

And most of all, don't be just a taker; give back. SHARE your knowledge. Be a positive force in your world, as you never know who is reading your posts. Set the example.

If you have multiple Twitter accounts, or even if you use Facebook and Twitter, you'll need a host client where you can get up-to-the-second updates. Although there are other services, I prefer Yoono, which attaches to my Firefox browser and allows me to continue working without having to stop and hunt for for a link. I simply click over from one account to the next, read it out of the corner of my eye, and keep going. Having gone through grad school, I learned that shortcuts are the divine paths to having a life in addition to working your butt off.

6. Technology. Make use of  the "junk" you may have received at Christmas, and in the midst of the entire fiasco, you may find that instead of junk, it becomes an essential. Smartphones, netbooks, laptops, and PC's use programs and apps that can expedite your geological journey. Think how best these items can serve your purpose. Plan your work, then work your plan.

7. Let's not forget books. Always a favorite source of mine, I've begun to use my Nook for the latest releases by my favorite authors. Formats include epub, mobi, Kindle, and pdf, to name a few. And if you look, you'd be surprised at the number of free geology books that are out there, ready to download. Of course, my desk will always look like someone left half a library on it, as I have many old standards to which I refer constantly, but once a nerd-always a nerd.

I hope you've enjoyed what information I have provided and I do hope it serves you well. If you should have any further questions, please tweet me @1roxxfoxx and I'll be glad to help. And believe me, if I don't know the answer, I'll know someone who will.

Lin Kerns

List of Internet Resources:

(Volcano Ovservatories List)


(Google Earth Blog)

(Erik Klemetti's Eruptions Blog)

(Vei8: Volcanoes of the World)


(Service manuals for everything electronic)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Though The Earth Be Moved-The Good Friday Quake of March 27,1964, Alaska

As I am wont to poke around the net, looking for the odd bit of image or data concerning my vast variety of interests, I happened upon this archive of old black and white films. Hmm... thought I. So, I stayed for a bit, using the search engine on site and after entering "earthquake," up pops these two films on the March 27, 1964, Good Friday quake and tsunami. I watched, totally smitten with what I saw. Here were two short flicks about something that figured so predominantly in my childhood. Talk about a wave of nostalgia. Whoa.

Suddenly, I was thrust backwards in time to that ominous Friday when my mother was "preaching" (better term: projecting) her end of the world nightmares on my Aunt Pauline and myself. I was, at first, a casual eavesdropper; my room was adjacent to the kitchen where my mother worked from her pulpit above the sink while she cooked and Aunt Pauline was sitting in one of the straight backed, straw bottom chairs from the dining room.

"There will be weeping and gnashing of the teeth, and the worm quencheth not!" she asserted. "The earth will shake and rumble, and the sky will turn to blood! Ye know not the time the Lord cometh, but he will come!"

She so had me at the earth shaking. I leaned against the wall beside the doorway, listening, hidden. It was not like I hadn't heard it all before, but something was different. The sky was an odd yellow color and it was filled with dark clouds of varying shades of color--charcoal, gunmetal, blue steel. Jacob's ladders dropped and rose. And the day was far too warm for March; a storm was brewing.

Closer to home, the storm had already arrived in the kitchen. Mother continued..."tidal waves that will wash the earth clean, and tornadoes and hurricanes and fire and brimstone will fall from the sky." My aunt was soaking it up and I was thinking behind the wall. I was all of ten and a half years old and very impressionable.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Later that night, after the aunt had gone home and my dad was there after working all day, we were settled around the tv, watching a movie. "The Robe," I think. When there was a news report that interrupted and the reporter began to inform us intracontinentals about the Alaska quake and tidal wave. I'm sitting there, going stone cold, afraid to breathe. Was it the end of the world?

Later that night, I couldn't sleep for fear that Jesus would come and first, drown me, then take my soul straight to hell and dump my miserable, sinning butt there forever. For. Ever. I was terrified. Every drop of dew that condensed and fell on the cellar roof from the main roof outside my bedroom window was an omen of doom. If I listened very closely, I could hear the sound of roaring water in the distance, Yellow eyes reflected from the cellar roof and at first I thought it was a demon from hell come to collect me, but then I heard a "meowr" and the pain in my chest subsided as I began to breathe again.

Is it any wonder, that all of this fascinated me; even as it attracted me, I was compelled to seek answers. Real ones to hearsay. My parents didn't have a clue, and there were not many sources out in the sticks. But that spring, my parents invested in a set of World Book Encyclopedias, and I was off and running to learn the secret nature of everything.

That's enough about me for the moment. Yes, it was indeed, an adventure in geology--of the wrong kind. And within the week, this footage was broadcast on our black and white tv. I was on my way.

Enjoy this little bit of history and join me in watching "Though the Earth be Moved."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Garden of the Gods, Shawnee National Forests, S. IL

A few years ago, during autumn, I went on a joint trip with my friends, John Koons and Cheryl, his wife, to see extended family members Jim and Selena Grove who live in Southern Illinois. Jim was kind enough to drive us all around to see the local sights and so we rode east into Hardin County to see the Garden of the Gods.

 At first sight, the beauty of the heavily forested area wraps you in an unending sea of deciduous trees, interspersed with pine and cedar. The wind moves sensuously through the leaves and creates a cacophony of blunted clicks that paints the breeze with more force than it really is. But while the wind uses trickery, the surroundings do not.

Up a slanted, weaving path only a short distance, the scene unfolds on to a path that is strewn with giant (yes, the place is named justifiably so) rounded boulders that appear very old. They lay tumbled, alone and mounded precariously, all over the area, and that arena opened upon a wide stretch of sky and tree: Shawnee National Forest. The trail ends with this vista on a cuesta; a cuesta (pronounced KWEH-sta) is a ridge that is asymmetrical in cross section. One of the slopes is gently curved, but the other, which is like a cliff face, is steep without becoming entirely vertical.

The rock you stand upon is a Pounds sandstone of the Lower Pennsylvanian Caseyville formation. I was advised that one can also see such an exposure at Bell Smith Springs, but I have not been there. However, both places share such characteristics that are typical of sedimentary deposits laid down in agitated water. The uniqueness of Garden of the Gods is that these rocks contain bizarree patterns of wavelike bands that cut through the crossbedding traces of the sandstone face. These bands are called Liesegang rings, which are concentric zones of concentrated iron oxide that existed after the sediments settled. What makes these rings so stark and noticeable is that they erode much slower than the surrounding sandstone, thereby making them appear bold and wildly designed.

And that's not a fey creature in the picture; just a kid who hopefully will be bitten by the geology bug.

 To the west, the autumn clothed trees are a true spectacle and color blazes as far as the horizon. To the north lies the Eagle Creek syncline. In fact, at Garden of the Gods, we stood upon the southern side of that syncline and so the Pounds sandstone dips easily to the north. Geologically speaking, this exposed rock is a wonder to behold, but poetically speaking, one almost can see the wee folk themselves in the shadows.

 I'm heading over there where those tiny figures are standing. 

Ah, but this vista is so very distracting!
(Northern view)

 Went to the edge and that drop is a "fur piece" down there.

Almost there...

 Okay, I'm just a tad distracted.

Sneaking a peek at the west

I'm almost there--little more to go.

This is it!

 Made it! Wow. Look at all that color.

And that hump is part of that southern side of the syncline.

What trip would be worthwhile without the company of good friends. Below are (L to R) Becky, Jim, Selena, Cheryl, and John. Love you guys! You "rock" my world!

Hope you enjoyed our visit to the rocky side of southern Illinois. Stay tuned for the next adventure, which will be coming soon. Promise.

PS A special thanks to Raymond Wiggers for his geological information on the area in his "Geology Underfoot in Illinois." 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

In the Meantime...

Blood on the Temple floor by Asad K
Blood on the Temple floor, a photo by Asad K on Flickr.

Whilst I'm off composing another one of my adventurous posts, I simply must share a picture that screams, "WALLPAPER" out to me. Oh my word, but this is such a demonstration of geological eye candy! Ok. Ok. I'll stop gushing and let you see... gaze upon such wonders of the world... particularly, the foothills of Lassen Volcano. GAH!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Etna's Display Wednesday Night

Happened to catch this A-MAZING shot from Etna's webcam Wednesday night. See? You CAN sit home and still have geo-adventures. Score!!! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Lassen Volcano Eruption of 1914-1915

 My utter fascination with Lassen Volcano grows exponentially every time I see a picture of the area. When I stumbled across these old pictures of the 1914 eruption, I knew I would have to share them. Hey, the obsessed likes company, too. 

So, join me in taking a trip back into time, when a heavenly place turned into hell. 

 1914--the beginning
 Lassen crater 1 day old June 14
September 5, 1914 

Mt. Lassen in Eruption - June 1914
Mt. Lassen (CA), Divided Back PM 1920 Dec-31
All the remaining images are 1915 unless otherwise noted:


The May 19, 1915 mudflow picked up ash, rocks and dirt as it plunged down the northern slopes of Lassen Peak. Gaining material as it came down, it was 20 feet deep when it reached Lost Creek.


On May 19, 1915, glowing lava appeared in the 1914 crater, melting the 40-foot-deep snowpack on the northeast slope and causing a mammoth flow of mud 18 miles long.  

This view from Reflection Lake is typical of many of the individual steam and ash eruptions during the 7 years that Lassen Peak was active. B.F. Loomis Photo

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Location: California
Established: August 9, 1916

Size: 106,372 acres (43,047 hectares)

On June 14, 1914, three men climbed Lassen Peak to see why a seemingly dormant volcano had started rumbling 16 days before. Now, peering into a newborn crater, they felt the ground tremble. As they turned and ran down the steep slope, the mountain erupted. Rocks hurtled through the ash-filled air. One struck a man, knocking him out. Ashes rained down on the men. They seemed doomed. But the eruption stopped as suddenly as it had begun, and the three men survived.

From 1914 to early 1915, Lassen spewed steam and ashes in more than 150 eruptions. Finally, on May 19, 1915, the mountaintop exploded. Lava crashed through the 1914 crater. A 20-foot-high (6-meter-high) wall of mud, ash, and melted snow roared down the mountain, snapping tree trunks. Three days later, a huge mass of ashes and gases shot out of the volcano, devastating a swath a mile (1.6 kilometers) wide and three miles (five kilometers) long. Above the havoc a cloud of volcanic steam and ash rose 30,000 feet (9,150 meters).

Eruptions of steam, ash, and tephra continued until June 1917, when the volcano resumed its quiet profile, with minor steam clouds occasionally reported. Since 1921 Lassen Peak has remained quiet. But it is still considered an active volcano, the centerpiece of a vast panorama, where volcanism displays its spectaculars—wrecked mountains, devastated land, bubbling cauldrons of mud. Until Mount St. Helens blew in 1980, Lassen's eruption was the most recent volcanic explosion in the lower 48 states. Ecologists now study Lassen's landscape to see what the future may bring to the terrain around St. Helens.

How to Get There

From Redding (about 45 miles/72 kilometers away), take Calif. 44 east then Calif. 89 south to Manzanita Lake Entrance; from Red Bluff, follow Calif. 36 east to Mineral, turn north on Calif. 89 to Southwest Entrance. The three other entrances—at Warner Valley, Butte Lake, and Juniper Lake—are reached via unpaved roads. Airports: Redding and Chico, California; Reno, Nevada.

When to Go

The volcanic areas are best visited in summer and fall. Heavy snows close most of the main road in winter. But visitors still enjoy snowshoe hikes and cross-country skiing at the southern and northern entrances.

How to Visit

On a one-day visit, drive the main park road, linking Calif. 89. The road, snaking across the western side of the park between the Southwest and Manzanita Lake Entrances, takes you near the major volcanic features. Explore Bumpass Hell and other sites along the way. If you can stay longer, climb Cinder Cone, an outstanding example of the results of volcanism, and, if you have the stamina for a more demanding trek, try Lassen Peak.

Information source

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cristianitos Fault-San Diego County, CA

On days whenever I didn't feel quite up to hiking long distances in the desert, we would stick close to home and just check out Geo-places I had read about in books. One place in particular that attracted a raised-in-the-Missouri-gumbo girl like myself was the Cristianitos Fault; being born on the New Madrid Fault Zone, unable to see what lay so deep below us, naturally, I was utterly fascinated with the opportunity to actually see a clear cut fault.

The book that affected me most while I lived in SoCal was "Geology Underfoot in Southern California," by Robert Sharp and Allen Glazner. I was determined to go to every single site these authors described; however, I only went to about half of the places. I'll be posting more on those trips, too, so stay tuned.

After paying $10 for parking, we made our way down the steep trail to the beach. The day was a typical, on-shore flow, with the sunlight deflected from millions of suspended micro-droplets of mist in the air. There was a softness to the day that was in direct contrast to the noise of the restless sea.

And this is me, taking in the gorgeous scenery: 

The walk was fairly long, but the tide was low and the exposed accretioned sections of seafloor lay slanted, pointing at the direction from whence they originated. The Farallon Plate had long ago ceased to subduct the coast, but its strength and longevity was scattered along the shores of southern California via marine terraces.

We made our way to Echo Arch Camp and the Cristianitos Fault, which lay just beyond it. Here's a map of the area courtesy of the same book that inspired my trip:

The following image is the entrance to the Echo Arch Gully Trail:

To my right, the bluffs underscore the fact that ancient sea levels were higher and by its tilt that the land has risen by some radical force.

And then, suddenly we are in a wide open area, the Echo Arch Camp, which is absolutely stunning:

Thanks to millennia of erosion by the sea undercut this cliff, thereby eliminating layer after layer of deposits a few feet at a time. Otherwise, we would not be able to enjoy the scenery within this arena.

Rounding the corner from Echo Arch, we begin to see signs of the fault.

The white sandstone below a line of cobbles is an old wave cut platform about 30-40' in height known as the San Mateo Sandstone. About 20' of that layer was shaved off and drilled into so that the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant could be founded safely. Above the line of cobbles, 60-90' of a dark brown collection of detritus and material sits that took around 100,000 years to accumulate. Think of the sea moving inward covering the original wave-cut platform and leaving its particulate traces, such as sand and shells, then the wash of small stones, boulders, soil, and other materials move down to land on the leeward side of the platform, making a nice sloping apron. Sea level changes, allowing for more accumulation. Thousands of years later, sea level finally stabilizes and once more wave cutting occurs, removing enough material so that we are now able to see these two bedding layers with a fault running through them.

In case you think that hmm, San Onofre will be undercut, thankfully, solid concrete walls with a berm of large wedges of rocks buttress the plant and so time will be long coming before this nuclear plant is at risk.You can see the plant below and the layer of San Mateo Sandstone overlaid by the Alluvial Deposits (also, take care to see the nude sunbather, too ;-)

Next, let's look at the fault. It extends inland on a bearing of WNW for about 26 miles, crossing Ortega Highway, all the way through the valley of CaƱada Chiquita. The Monterey Shale was laid down during the Miocene (20-15 million years ago) and the San Mateo Sandstone, during the Pliocene (4-5 million years ago. The Monterey Shale? Hey, where is that? Take a look below:

It's behind those bushes.

The San Mateo formation has moved over the Monterey Shale, which dropped allowing the situation to occur. Also, notice that banding has taken place near the fault in the San Mateo formation, while the Monterey Shale is crumpled and broken. But look at the layer of cobbles above the fault--they are level, which signifies no movement in the fault since they were laid down. The Alluvial Deposits are at roughly 90 degrees, which also means that they have not been displaced. Studies show that the wave-cut platform is about 120,000 to 125,000 years old; faults are considered active if they have moved within the last 11,000 to 35,000 years. Therefore, the fault is dead, and no worries over this one affecting San Onofre.

What's really neat, though, is that you can place your hand in a genuine fault. Way cool.

And that's it. Hope you had as much fun as I did. Gotta run! See you later!